Faced with the seemingly daunting tasks of restoring its economic credibility and regaining working class voters lost to UKIP, Alex Davenport looks at the candidates in the running for the labour leadership.
Seen as very much the outsider, Creagh has quietly yet competently gone about her business in various shadow cabinet roles (she is currently Shadow Secretary for International Development) as well as having a previous background in local government. However, given that she is not a high-profile MP, she may struggle to gain the support she needs to stand a genuine chance of winning.
Considered by many as the ‘surprise package’ of the campaign, Kendall is not as well-known as her main rivals, yet her campaign has been effective and has won the support of high-profile Labour MPs. Many have labelled her the ‘Blairite’ candidate, particularly due to her emphasis on the utility of private firms in providing public services; although her supporters argue such labels are outdated.
Currently the bookies’ favourite to win, Burnham is the Shadow Health Secretary, having previously held various ministerial positions in the Brown government. He has emphasised the importance of such experience, but is eager to distance himself from the politics of New Labour. He is seen as having the ‘common touch’ and has the support of large sections of the Labour-affiliated trade union movement, whose influence is significant. Described as adopting an “unfashionable mantle of Professional Northerner”.
Cooper is another prominent and richly experienced MP, having served in various government and shadow cabinet positions. Like Burnham, she will focus on the benefits of her experience in the party while taking care to not associate too closely with the last Labour government and the economic crisis that it presided over. However, Cooper has been criticised during the campaign for failing to demonstrate what she stands for, but has been particularly outspoken on her party’s “squeamish” stance on immigration.
Well-respected in the party, many tipped Umunna to become the next Labour leader, but he dropped out due to the sudden increase in media scrutiny he and his family received. Nonetheless, he is surely just at the beginning of a long and prominent career in the Labour Party.
Hunt never formally announced he would stand, but explored the possibility before dropping out after discovering that he would likely lack sufficient support among fellow MPs. Both Umunna and Hunt have publicly announced they are supporting Kendall’s campaign for the leadership.
Over the next few months, the leadership campaign could go one of a number of ways. However, Burnham must be considered most likely to win given his ability to appeal to working classes lost to UKIP, and the fact that he is experienced without carrying much of the baggage associated with Labour’s recent history.
However his victory is far from assured, as both Kendall and Cooper will strongly appeal to significant factions within the party, but perhaps must do more to appeal to those outside such factions. Creagh remains a rank outsider, although her campaign will likely do her position within the party little harm.
Whichever candidate is elected on 12 September faces the formidable task of uniting the party, then pursuing a successful election-winning strategy for five years time.